Rumer - Boys Don't Cry
Rumer, known to her mates simply as Sarah Joyce, has ticked all the boxes for what a modern audience expects of their pleasant but middle-of-the-road 'easy listening' singers: lots of daytime Radio 2 airplay, a profile-enhancing slot on Jools Holland's show, and a debut album showcasing a voice that perfectly complemented a nice rouge wine and impressive cheese board. It goes without saying that there was none of that drug-dalliance foo-foo-flashing behaviour that our more tabloid-baiting female stars display. Now comes Boys Don't Cry which, following the carefully navigated first foray into her niche, arrives as a bit of a left-turn curveball of a second album by the standards of Rumer and similar artists who have come before.
Okay, it's not like she's gone all death metal or crunk on us. But an album of new material in the form of appealing, soft-footed, mid-tempo ballads that show off that soothing voice? Well, in a way but also not. Because she's nowhere near as boring as that (or maybe that's the point - that she realises she needs to keep our interest in a world where her songs aren't exactly ready-made ringtones), Rumer has decided to deliver a covers collections of songs originally written and performed by male singer/songwriters who were knocking around in the 70s. It's hardly the most radical of concept album ideas but, give the gal her due, it is quietly ambitious and, thanks to an unerring love of the songs she so beautifully sings, allows Rumer the opportunity to reveal her voice and adaptations as truly authentic. Rather this than have her babbling on about nine million bicycles in Beijing or something or other...
It also helps that the songs on Boys Don't Cry are not immediately familiar which, as well as acting as a passion project for Rumer, means the album is likely to attract devout musos and those listeners who like to discover new music and may backtrack to hear the originals. You may have already heard the impossibly lovely 'P.F. Sloan', which sees those beautiful (and yes, very Carpenter-like) tones traverse a tricky but affecting melody originally crafted by Jimmy Webb. As with debut Seasons of My Soul, the songs here don't loudly announce themselves with a bolshy attitude but, if you're in the mood to give them a good listen rather than have them drift right over you (although the album succeeds as a divine easy listening experience too, of course), there is a lot to be enjoyed from that voice to the subtle production and the original song craft on display.
A take on Isaac Hayes' 'Soulsville' has helped soundtrack my BBQ weekend during this heatwave we're having, and should accompany the summer if this weather keeps up; however, as a piece of work in its own right, Boys Don't Cry is a respectable and often gorgeous reminder that music of this ilk isn't always overtly 'easy' and can surprise.